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Garden airgunning – 20 rules to follow

Mat Manning offers 20 key tips for garden airgunners to ensure that airgunning is carried out safely, legally and without disturbing the neighbours

sign for garden airgun shooting

Make sure that everyone in your home knows that the garden is a no-go area until you have finished. Children and dogs need to be kept safely out of the way.

  1. It is legal to shoot an air rifle in your back garden providing you follow the rules. Garden airgunning is a great way to improve your target skills. (Read more on airgun laws here.)
  2. Any garden with a range of above 20m will make for interesting shooting and allow enough room to set up an air rifle shooting range.
  3. Make sure that not a single pellets strays beyond your boundary. If it does, you are breaking the law.
  4. Stay on good terms with your neighbours. Tell them that you plan backyard plinking before you start shooting, and reassure them of the precautions you will be taking. Offer to show them the set-up. You could even ask them if they would like to have a go.
  5. Avoid setting up your range anywhere that features an unlocked downrange access point.
  6. Make sure that everyone in your home knows that the garden is a no-go area until you have finished. Children and dogs need to be kept safely out of the way.
  7. Make a sign like the one above, saying “Shooting in Progress”.  Hang it securely on the gate that leads to your garden.
  8. Make a safe air rifle backstop. Wood is NOT a good backdrop. It can cause dangerous ricochets.
  9. A wall of brick, stone or concrete makes a good backdrop.
  10. If you don’t have a solid brick or stone wall then large paving slabs can be used to create the same effect.
  11. Another good air rifle backstop is thick steel and there are some excellent combined target holders and pellet catchers on the market. (Read more on air rifle targets here.)
  12. Mind you, you need to consider the clang your pellets make when they hit a metal backstop, as your neighbours could find the noise quite annoying. (Read our list of choosing the best air rifle pellets.) 
  13. For zeroing and working out the downrange performance of pellets, card and paper targets are best. They give a clear indication of where pellets are striking and how they are grouping.
  14. If you don’t have to worry about neighbours and noise then try knockdown targets.
  15. Reactive targets are available, some of which go off with a bang and a flash of sparks when hit. But they aren’t recommended for use in built-up areas.
  16. At no point should the air rifle be left unattended — even if it is unloaded and so considered to be safe. (Read four of the best air rifles for garden plinking.)
  17. If plinking with a friend establish beforehand who will be shooting when. Keep your firing points close together, preferably from the same bench, so communication is as clear as possible.
  18. If one of you needs to walk downrange to check or adjust the targets, make sure it is clear and understood by your companion, and stay put until they have acknowledged you.
  19. Before anyone leaves their position, ensure that all guns are unloaded and uncocked, pointing in a safe direction, with magazines removed and safety catches set.
  20. Guns should not be reloaded until you are back safely in position and the all-clear has been given.

You might also like to read my longer article on garden airgunning here which has more useful information in it.

Police visits before garden plinking

This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.